The Exceptional and the Everyday

Happy to explain the assorted rationales of the Exceptional architecture of the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion (just give me a call), but I thought it would be good for design culture to return to our roots – the appreciation of the Everyday (also in italics).  During a recent visit to the Thinking Cup on Tremont Street (one of two official cafes of Utile, Inc. – the other is Grassroots on Summer Street because we love the owners), I appreciated both the all-in-one fluted coffee cup and the toilet seat lid with the molded-built-in handle.

The toilet seat needs no explanation (for dual-sex households), but the coffee cup may require additional analysis: in this case the need for the hot cup sleeve is eliminated. Instead an integral fluted cup both dissipates heat and provides structural support for a much thinner cup liner– genius (and elegant!). The result is a cup that would have been invented by Hellenistic culture – if paper technology had been at the appropriate state of development.

-Tim

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Form and Structure

Rick Cook, partner of Cook+Fox in NYC, wrote to tell us that the relationship between the structure and smooth curved roof of the Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion reminded him of the interior structure of the Statue of Liberty. 

-Tim

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When to Consider the Checkerboard

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Ashland Youth Center, Ashland CA, RossDrulisCusenbery Architecture

Not so sure about the checkerboard as a fa├žade/cladding strategy – especially at the scale of the Ashland Youth Center (very recently posted on Architects’ Newspaper). It’s a one-liner that doesn’t satisfy with repeat viewings/readings and it requires slavish resolution of the interior to make it work. As mentioned before, it CAN work on larger buildings if the checkerboard grows out of standard window and spandrel dimensions – and if the complex form of the building demands a non-hierarchal and scale-less overall cladding pattern.

-Tim

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Shipping and Transport College, Rotterdam, Neutelings and Riedijk

The Power of the Allusive Symbol

The MIT FAST Light exhibition/festival this past weekend, part of the school’s 150 anniversary celebration, included more than a dozen glowing installations that flirted with the boundary between abstraction and figuration. The cumulative aesthetic effect reminded us of the opening ceremonies of the Athens Olympics (not Beijing) and/or a summer arts festival in Montreal.  The large crowd and spooky sky made it seem like Halloween in May.

The installations came in two general flavors: busy origami-like forms made up many-many smaller-scale parts (Joel Lamere and Cynthia Gunadi’s unfolding petal-like piece – Overliner – was the smartest and most beautifully fabricated) and soft pneumatic shapes that played coy semiotic games. Otto Piene’s ritualistic Sky Event included the frustrating/dramatic raising of the giant stalk-like structures, complete with the relentless beat of bongo drums. They were interpreted as palm trees, asparagus stalks, or giant phalluses – depending on the mood of the viewer. Nader Tehrani’s blobby letterforms spelled “MIT” but also looked like a flabby rhinoceros or throbbing molars, depending on the changing lighting effect (Liquid Archive).

The large audience seemed to be having fun creating their own personal interpretations of the pieces – proving the visual power of allusive (Tehrani’s Liquid Archive) and latent symbols (Piene’s Sky Event). Tehrani’s piece suggested a possible pedigree for all of this near-figurative fun: Cobi, the official mascot of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

-Tim  

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Construction Fence

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As the graphic designers of a prominent construction fence (the Boston Harbor Island Pavilion in Downtown Boston), we are interested in other solutions for this fairly ubiquitous design problem. The fence in front of the Renzo Piano-altered Fogg Museum at Harvard is particularly straightforward and elegant because of the black & white palette and the use of swarms of arrows to redirect visitors to the still-open Sackler Museum across Broadway.  Only a single decisive person – certainly not a leaderless client committee – would have agreed to a graphic solution that didn’t include a) eye-catching color!, b) diverse and engaged people!, and c) photos of compelling works of art!

-Tim